VOLUNTEERS WITH BROOM MAKE GUTTER, WORLD BRIGHTER.
I was on my morning jog when I first saw them.
Two senior citizens, most likely retired, were cleaning the gutters of our main thoroughfare.
I was struggling up the hill under the weight of too many burgers, fries and late-night bowls of popcorn, and I wanted to ignore this couple. I wanted to look down at the pavement, as I usually do, and continue up the hill. But there was something about them.
They had the trunk of their '82 Chevy open, and in the trunk lay piles of trash from our streets: newspapers, leaves, the occasional broken bottle. In the front seat billowed a trash bag so crammed with weeds that it looked like one of the finalists at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival.
Two senior citizens. The husband worked the gutter, sweeping trash into a dustpan and depositing it in a receptacle in the trunk. The wife snipped and tugged at some weeds that had grown up through the cracks in the sidewalks.
I got a good look at them coming up the hill. Too good. You see, I jog hills slowly these days. I myself have begun to look like one of the balloons at the Albuquerque festival.
They went at their work patiently, methodically. The sun rose over the hilltops that rim our Valley as I fought against the girth of the good life. But I couldn't take my eyes off them.
Why would anyone do such a thing? Why would anyone care?
Two senior citizens, most likely retired. But they weren't retired from living. They weren't retired from working to improve their little corner of the world.
If someone tells you, in these days of much political turmoil and hubbub, that the country is going to hell in a handbasket, don't believe it. If you live in Columbus or Washington, D.C., or Sacramento or Bangor and you hear doomsayers calling and the spin doctors exhorting us against the end of civilization, pass them by.
They mean well; they really do. But their vision is restricted. They didn't see what I saw on my morning jog.
By the time I finished my five miles and returned home, I knew I wanted to write about them. I climbed in my van and drove up the block. It took a few minutes to return to where I last saw them.
I could tell I was getting close when I saw the spotless gutters, the weedless sidewalks. But they were gone. The day had grown hot and they must have gone back to the shade of their home, although they didn't depart without leaving behind a conspicuous trail of cleanliness and order.
Don't believe the doomsayers and naythinkers. The republic still stands. I went home with the comforting assurance that these two unknown citizens had made our streets safe again from newspapers, leaves and the occasional broken bottle. And maybe something more.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Sep 3, 1998|
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